Deferred maintenance is all the work you’re postponing because you don’t have access to the right combination of resources. In some cases, there’s not enough space in the budget for all the required work. In others, it’s a lack of labor.

You might also be deferring maintenance because the team doesn’t have the proper training or tools. Regardless of the causes, by putting off maintenance you run the risk of larger, more expensive failures that can quickly cascade into costly downtime. 

What’s the difference between deferred maintenance and a maintenance backlog? 

Not everything on the backlog is there because you didn’t have the time, people, or parts to get it done. In some cases, you back-log low-priority work whenever something more important comes up. So, even though the walls in the employee break room could use a fresh coat of paint, that’s not as important as fixing the exhaust fans over the welding stations.

In other cases, you backlog work when it makes more sense to do it later. For example, at a school, you can put off some of the work until summer break when students are not in the way. Or, at a factory, you can delay certain inspections, so they happen when you know the assets are scheduled to be down.    

Having a backlog is normal. In fact, not having one is usually a strong sign the maintenance department is overstaffed. So, you don’t want to get rid of yours completely. Instead, you want a backlog that’s manageable and moving in the right direction. If it’s steadily growing, you likely have some combination of problems with staffing and resource allocation. Over time, it should stay about the same size or shrink. 

Deferred maintenance is different because it’s work that you would rather do now, but you lack the resources to get it done. Ideally, you shouldn’t have any deferred maintenance. It’s a sign you don’t have enough resources or that you’re not spending them effectively.  

How can I stop deferred maintenance and how does facility management software make it easier?  

Depending on your situation, this can work one of two ways for you. 

If you can boost your efficiency, you might find that you have what you need to get work done properly and on time. If you can’t, you need to capture definitive proof that the maintenance department needs more resources. 

In both cases, the right facility management software can help you.  

Step 1: Get all your maintenance data in one spot  

When everything is spread out over random slips of paper and spreadsheets, you can quickly corrupt or completely lose critical data. Copy over the wrong number when you’re manually entering data, and you’ve just corrupted your data and spoiled your reports. Lose the wrong piece of paper, and now you don’t have any data, reliable or not.  

Cloud-based facility management software helps you keep all your data safe, secure, and accessible. Once you have reliable data, you can track maintenance metrics and key performance indicators using the auto-generated reports. 

Step 2: Prioritize your maintenance tasks  

Now that you have all your data in one spot, you can get a sense of the maintenance big picture. Start by making a list of all the work the team needs to tackle. How do you know something makes the list? Start by imagining you have unlimited time and money, and then add all the work you would want done.  

But of course, you don’t have unlimited time and money, so you need to then organize the list according to priority, with the most critical up top.  

Remember, though, there’s more than one definition of critical. It depends on your specific facility, but make sure to consider: 

  • Safety and compliance  
  • Frequency of the asset’s use 
  • Potential future costs 
  • Overall criticality 

Once you have your list, you can try moving resources around to tackle it.  

Step 3: Start up or fine-tune your preventive maintenance program  

And one of the best ways to organize resources so you can take care of deferred maintenance is with a preventive maintenance program. If you don’t have one, now’s the time to get one. If you already do have one, it’s time to fine-tune it.  

The key here is scheduling inspections and tasks (PMs) in advance so you can find and fix small issues before they have a chance to grow into serious problems. That saves you money because you’re avoiding expensive repairs. But you save in other ways, too. When you know your schedule early, you can more easily ensure you have the right people and parts in place. Now, instead of rush ordering a part after a breakdown, you can arrange to have it sent early, without all the extra costs of a rush delivery. 

Preventive maintenance is a great solution, and the right facility maintenance software makes it easy to schedule and track PMs. That said, it might not solve all your problems. You still need to look at that list of deferred maintenance and for each one, ask yourself, “Why is this being deferred? What is the root cause?”  

Step 4: If your PMs still aren’t working, ask for more  

It depends on your root causes, but it might turn out that with your current resources, you’d never be able to stay on top of facility maintenance. You might need to start building the case for additional resources.  

If you already have your asset and PM program data in facility management software, you can use the reports module to crunch the numbers for you and build easy-to-read charts and graphs that show exactly where your budget is going and why you need more help. 

Remember, deferred maintenance is the work the maintenance department wants to do now but can’t because it lacks the resources. The result is expensive unscheduled downtime.

There are steps you can take to tackle deferred maintenance, but in some cases, improving effectiveness and efficiency is not enough, and you need to leverage your maintenance data to advocate for additional resources. At every step, the right facility management software makes your workflows smoother, your life easier.  

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Jonathan writes about asset management, maintenance software, and SaaS solutions in his role as a digital content creator at Eptura. He covers trends across industries, including fleet, manufacturing, healthcare, and hospitality, with a focus on delivering thought leadership with actionable insights. Earlier in his career, he wrote textbooks, edited NPC dialogue for video games, and taught English as a foreign language. He hold a master's degree in journalism.